Arlene Jones of Oakdale says change has been her mantra for many years. After moving here from the Bay Area in 1979, she worked with community leaders to begin youth soccer in Oakdale and started an outdoor group for adults at her church. She made learning come alive for students in Oakdale schools, where she taught for 28 years.
Jones is an energetic member of the American Association of University Women’s Oakdale-Riverbank-Escalon chapter. She is organizing a Modesto forum next month on ending violence on school and college campuses. The forum at 7 p.m. March 19 at Martin Petersen Event Center, 720 12th St., will feature a panel of speakers including Sheriff Adam Christianson; Office of Education Superintendent Tom Changnon; Patrick Day, vice president of student life at University of the Pacific; Oakdale Police Chief Lester Jenkins; Family Justice Center Executive Director Tom Ciccarelli; and Madelyn Schlaepfer, director of county Behavioral Health and Recovery Services.
Ten months after the killings of six people near the University of California, Santa Barbara, speakers will discuss underlying factors in campus shootings, including substance abuse, crime, high school dropout rates, mental health and the breakdown of the family. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. for attendees to talk with community agencies.
Q: What prompted you to organize a forum on campus violence?
A: My granddaughter was receiving letters of acceptance to colleges as the tragic shootings at UC Santa Barbara were unfolding. My concern for her safety prompted me to bring the idea for a forum on campus violence to a program development board meeting of AAUW.
Q: Why do people in Stanislaus County need to have a conversation about this issue?
A: We cannot afford to have a catastrophic event happen on our school and college campuses. We have escaped the tragic events such as the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and at UC Santa Barbara. But let’s not fool ourselves that it could not happen here.
Q: What can be done to prevent shootings on school campuses?
A: Shootings on school campuses are difficult to prevent. Fences around the perimeter of schools and metal detectors have not been solutions. It is a multifaceted problem, which our forum is going to address.
Q: What do you hope people attending this forum will come away with?
A: Beside the volunteer opportunities that the local outreach agencies provide, we want an outcry for change. The illnesses pervading today’s society need to be addressed. Strengthening the family unit is a key issue. We hope to pique the interest of the attendees so that ideas for new strategies will take place.
A feedback form will be provided at the end of the panel discussion. Attendees can indicate their preference for a volunteer opportunity, offer an idea for a new strategy, or indicate they wish to join us in Phase 2. In the second phase, we will explore new solutions to end the culture of violence on school and college campuses. We do not wish this forum to be the end-all. This is not a discussion of ideas, but a platform for action.
Q: The AAUW advocates for sexual assault prevention at college campuses. This problem has been in the news. What are your thoughts?
A: AAUW has tirelessly worked to engage conversation and change regarding this issue. The issue of sexual assault on college campuses has been disregarded for too long. Through the commitment of research and dedication to this issue, AAUW is now recognized as a leader in initiating long-needed legislation.
I was particularly struck by a comment from UOP Vice President Patrick Day when we recently spoke with him about this. He said that boys need to learn how to be men, and that girls need to learn how to be women. Individual responsibility can be the beginning of the solution.
Q: Tell us about the AAUW branch of Oakdale, Riverbank and Escalon.
A: The Oakdale-Riverbank-Escalon branch has one fundraiser a year to finance the three types of scholarships we provide. We send 10 seventh-grade girls from our area schools to a weeklong Tech Trek camp held each summer on the Fresno State University campus. More than 100 girls have been sent by our branch alone.
We mentor these same girls through high school and offer one four-year $1,000 scholarship or a pair of two-year $500 scholarships as a second opportunity. Speech Trek competition is a third opportunity for scholarship. Two of our recent branch winners have placed in the state awards for additional scholarship money.
Last summer, we sent one of our college scholarship students to the AAUW leadership conference for college women in Washington, D.C. We are proud of the accomplishments of our young women and are dedicated to their support. We strive to educate our members through informative programs and support public policy issues empowering women – promoting a fair chance for all.
Q: What do you find rewarding about participating in the AAUW chapter?
A: In addition to this branch being a great vehicle to provide opportunities for young girls, it has been a positive influence in my life to work with this tremendous group of AAUW women. They are dedicated to making a difference in their community, and now we are asking the community to join us in making a difference.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2321.